Addi Road Food Pantry here in Marrickville is closing for another day. A barefoot schoolboy nearby, standing behind a tree, makes high calling sounds. “Is that a bird? Is that a bird?” a couple of women call out, as if they can’t see him.
Our volunteers are shutting up shop, but they linger, talking, socialising, adding up the day’s small encounters. It’s one of those very pleasant autumn afternoons and in its ease you could be at a country store.
Grace Rabuatoka from The Fijian Community has been sitting on a bench across the road with a few boxes of bananas and other items she plans to use for cooking. Her ride is on the way; there’s lots of talking and laughter on the phone. Organising, motivating, getting people moving, connecting one situation to another, that’s Grace. Feeding the people all over.
She notices a few more boxes of fading bananas being moved out of the Food Pantry and walks over to see what can be made use of. Before she gets a chance the doors of the Pantry slide open and another boy, perhaps a few years older than that bird behind behind the tree, emerges. He apologises to Grace and let’s her know the Food Pantry is closed.
He appears to be one of the volunteer’s sons, arriving to go home with a parent. Then it turns out he is actually a volunteer himself, brought here to help sometimes by his grandmother.
Diligent, polite, he gives out the Food Pantry hours, 12 to 4 weekdays, and assures Grace it will be open tomorrow. He also points to the boxes of fruit to let her know they are free. Grace knows all this. But she admires the boy and his manners, his care, smiles, places her hand briefly on his shoulder. “Thank you.”
At almost the same time as this an Athena Cake Shop van arrives. A gentle fellow with white moustache climbs out to collect some crates. He explains he donated some brioche buns he baked just the other day. How much are the bananas? he asks, noticing the full cardboard boxes on the outside table. It’s a veritable banana gold-rush this afternoon. Once again it’s explained they are free.
He touches them. They are still good for cooking. Oh please, take them. We don’t want to waste them. He grabs two boxes. Says he will bring back banana bread for everyone.
The main door of the Food Pantry is locked shut. Athena Cakes drives off. Grace calls out goodbye. The polite and helpful boy that advised Grace also leaves. Across the road, by the tree, our little bird is waiting for his brother, ready to fly away. Both of them back to sing another day.